In my five years of working as an “adventure coach,” I’ve had a whole lot of experience diving into what adventure means, and how varied it can be perceived. Well, really, this goes back way further than the past few years, as I’ve made a study of what adventure looks like for several years.
I often ask others what adventure means to them. For the most part, I attract people who are a big fan of the word adventure, and state it as something like this…
- Doing something that stretches your comfort zone
- Trying anything that is new and different
But I also come across those who aren’t as into the thought of adventure. They prefer comfort and lazy Sundays, and find adventure just a little “too much” for their taste.
However, this is where I’d like to express how varied the meaning of the word can be.
I’m no fan of the Merriam Webster dictionary’s primary version, which has an air of danger to it: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks. Sure, some adventures can be dangerous, but most I would say are not. In fact, I would argue that a life avoiding adventure would be all the more dangerous (for your sanity and overall wellbeing and satisfaction in life).
The secondary dictionary definition is much more on point: an exciting or remarkable experience.
Adventure for many also tends to favor travel. When you travel, you are open to having an adventure, for sure. But not so much when staying home.
I disagree here, too.
To me, adventure means so much more. Yes, it’s about trying something new, yes it’s about stretching your comfort zone, but ultimately it’s an all-encompassing description of your life’s journey. It includes inner and outer adventures, near and far from home. I’ve explored so many ways you can have adventure in your own backyard – or even within your home – or simply just within.
I consider this a mixture of inner and outer adventures.
Outer adventures, that get more notice, are actions that serve to help you connect with the world. It could be tasting a new dessert, trying a new sport, or even wearing an outfit that’s totally different to your typical style. It’s something that can stir up fear, like getting on a stage when you fear giving speeches or hopping in a plane to go skydiving.
It can be those things that make your heart race, or cause your forehead to bead with sweat… But it can also be something that doesn’t stir these reactions, yet helps you lean in and explore, and expand your horizons, increase your curiosities, and connect with something new. Or something you haven’t done for so long that it feels new (like maybe you loved acting as a kid, but haven’t done that at all in adulthood)
Inner adventures are seldom talked about, but so important. Often, we focus our life on getting to know the world and what’s on it, and who is on it, and how to react and interact with all of these outside factors. But the biggest adventure is getting to know the self. To question the purpose of life, to dance with consciousness and the unseen, and to learn to trust, listen to, and understand our truest, wisest, innermost selves. Not the outward person we convey. Not our career and lifestyle ambitions as shaped by outer influences, but us, at our core, at our very heart.
This can often feel scarier than base jumping or or juggling batons set on fire. You have to face your inner demons, doubts, retreats, and repressed dreams. Those dark shadows are totally challenging to face, and totally something like an inner voyage of adventure.
Main thing is, find what feels like something that will open you up to learn, to grow, to explore. Then do it. Daily. Get out there. Try something new. Inviting friends over when you don’t normally ever host, sending a snail mail letter to cousin you just discovered doing a family tree, sampling escargots, taking a mini hike, you get the picture.
And then of course, the next level, the bigger adventure goals, are the ones that get you so utterly in a state of flow, where time passes quickly, where you might find yourself having random bouts of smiles, and where the butterflies in your stomach keep you going because it is a challenge and it is stretching you, and shaping you into that more fearless version of you that you strive to be.
What adventure means to me is all these parts.
It’s that secret sauce that’s not so secret. But it’s the one that gets left out of the recipe all too often. If we’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into an excess of routine and resistance to change. Trouble is, everything is changing all the time. You, my friend, are changing all the time. So change will come anyway. Might as well embrace adventure so you can ride the wave that is life.
How about you? What does adventure mean to you?